A Fun Problem? The Limits of State Governance in Singapore

  • Eli Elinoff Victoria University-Wellington
  • Jamie Gillen National University of Singapore
Keywords: fun, Singapore, governance, state-society relations, politics


This paper presents a critical review of the Singapore government’s treatment of “fun” since independence in 1965. It asks why “fun” has been such an important question for the city-state throughout its history. It argues that governmental approaches to “fun” inform a modality of spatial governance that seeks to organize the relationship between the topography of the city-state and the body citizen so as to ensure the security of the former while generating the well-being and productivity of the latter. By tracing the history of the governance of fun through various state-led strategies—which we organize roughly in overlapping categories of sport and wellness, redevelopment and consumption, and citizen productivity—we consider how various initiatives aim to generate fun as a bounded activity, encouraging specific behaviors that take place in specific spaces at designated times. Although these efforts to produce fun have taken a variety of forms across the last fifty years, we note that they often run counter to the heterogeneous, spontaneous, auto-poetic, and often transgressive possibilities inherent in fun paradoxically constrain many of the kinds of funseeking undertaken by Singaporeans themselves. Thus, the management of fun creates a friction that encourages its own transgression. We suggest that future engagements with fun require more grounded ethnographic approaches to understand the complex interrelationship between state-led notions of fun and those auto-generated by citizens themselves.


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How to Cite
Elinoff, Eli, and Jamie Gillen. 2019. “A Fun Problem? The Limits of State Governance in Singapore”. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies 18 (3), 642-61. https://acme-journal.org/index.php/acme/article/view/1545.